Hartford lost one of its great advocates when cancer took Linda Osten last week.
Ms. Osten, 49, was a staff planner for the Capitol Region Council of Governments for several years before being picked to serve as chief operating officer of Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford. She lived in the city and was president of the Coalition to Strengthen the Sheldon/Charter Oak Neighborhood, one of the most active neighborhood groups.
But her resume doesn't do her justice. She was a clear and independent thinker with a great feel for cities and no qualms about pushing officials to do better. When city leaders were patting themselves on the back for bringing a WalMart and fast-food restaurants to the site of the former Charter Oak Terrace housing project, Ms. Osten said they wasted a great economic development opportunity.
When the state proposed expanding Columbus Boulevard up to eight lanes as part of the Adriaen's Landing project, Ms. Osten led the neighborhood opposition, arguing that such a wide street would cut the project off from the downtown it was supposed to enhance. The design was changed to a traditional, attractive boulevard.
Homeownership was the mantra when Mayor Eddie A. Perez took office. Ms. Osten was one of the very few people to remind him that rental housing was also critically important to the city. "There are many stages of life — for some people it's their entire lives — where renting is the right choice, the logical, financially reasonable choice. Ownership is not the only choice," she told The Courant.
Ms. Osten was a woman of warmth and sly wit, impatient with mediocrity. Though her cancer had returned this fall after a period of remission, she was at the mayoral debates, an active citizen to the end. Her loss makes us wonder yet again why cancer research isn't a higher national priority.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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